THE COMMON OBSERVER UNCOMMON OBSERVATIONS

Order & Disorder

Every observable aspect of the physical universe is a container of information. Modern science is just now discovering the secrets of information and how as a fundamental part of the universe it can be used to release great power.

A Comet Unnoticed

Comet ISON. NASA/HSTComets have long been portents of change. They challenge the rote repetition of our skies. An astute observer of the sky will perhaps have recently noticed a new object in the sky, a comet, present for the last few weeks (you would have had to look east just before sunrise near the star Spica). This was the comet ISON. But comet ISON, having strayed too close to the Sun, has been mostly annihilated. If there is a comet in the sky and no one sees it, was it ever really there?

 

William Carlos William’s poem, Landscape with the Fall of Icarus, captures the essence of comet ISON’s elusive journey around the Sun. Brueghel, the Felmish Renaissance painter, carefully recorded the event like a faithful astronomer, but the worker is not keen on the sky and Icarus goes wholly unnoticed. It is just the same to the worker, for had they noticed Icarus or not it would likely make no difference to their toils in the field. And similarly ISON went largely unnoticed.

According to Brueghel
when Icarus fell
it was spring

a farmer was ploughing
his field
the whole pageantry

of the year was
awake tingling
with itself

sweating in the sun
that melted
the wings’ wax

unsignificantly
off the coast
there was

a splash quite unnoticed
this was
Icarus drowning

ISON made a brief appearance to the unaided eye for a few days before it grazed the sun and then uncoiled itself. But to the learned astronomer ISON is still interesting. Comets are rare objects in the inner solar system so even a dead comet is a chance to learn something, in fact, further spectroscopic observations of this dead comet’s remains will continue to tell us exactly what it was made of. There is a legacy here.

 

I am a Monday contributor over at 3 Quarks Daily now so you can read the rest of the story of this lost comet over there…

Sunday Haiku

if the crows are out

it is not really raining at all

cold and stark perhaps

 

solar rite divides

long ice crystal nights into

manageable sorrows

 

earth can not fathom

how sun can yet waver

with such constancy

Haiku contributed from Nite Rote.

Fisheye Gamma Ray Photo

 

A neat image came up on the fantastic Astronomy Picture of the Day that caught my eye. Here is a picture of the Milky Way as seen from Earth orbit… in gamma ray light! The image from the Fermi Space Telescope is of course in false-color, but is nonetheless striking!

 

What is so fun about this image is that it contains both the Milky Way AND the Earth! The ring around the edge of the “photo” is actually our planet, glowing in gamma-ray wavelengths. In effect what we’re seeing is a kind of wide-angle (or fisheye) effect. Here is perhaps a more familiar (and extreme) example of this wide-angle effect, in visible light and with a more worldly setting…

 

 

Besides study the fascinating physics that goes in to producing gamma rays throughout the Milky Way’s disk (and well beyond!) this image is a brilliant visual reminder to me that our home, Earth, truly belongs to the cosmos. Rock on, NASA.

A Clay Fired Duke

To terminate an illness of culture you could shatter a clay fired duke. Inside you would find a desperate character — Clay Duke.  The performance of Dayna Hanson’s The Clay Duke was as desperate as the character itself. This is art imitating life that makes watching the performance compelling.

 

In Panama City, Florida on December 14th 2010 at a school board meeting Clay Allen Duke rises and states, “I have a motion.” He pulls out a can of red spray paint and paints a V in a circle. He pulls out a pistol. He lets women and children leave, proceeds to argue with the board members, and then attempts to shoot the board members. He misses every time. Duke is shot by the school police officer. Laying wounded on the floor Duke then executes himself. This is what I knew before I went to see Dayna Hanson’s The Clay Duke at On The Boards theater in Seattle tonight.

 

DAYNA HANSON

The whole thing is Chekhovian with this knowledge in hand. You can apparently easily find a video of the events online, and while I myself passed on viewing it Danya Hanson carefully studied and modeled movement of the true event for the creation of The Clay Duke. The name itself sets up a ruse. There is no duke at all here, and he would have been better off had he been made of something more durable than clay. This clay fired character is breaking. The dialogue explains it, but his movement shows it. Much of what can be said of this kind of performance is too constructed next to the actual events of real life or the events that occur on stage: examining the contents of a purse, discussing the merits of tucking in the shirt in school uniforms, patterned dance with marshmallows in the mouth, a disco of animals and so on. The motion that The Clay Duke presents is not always sensible. Neither was the motion which Clay Allen Duke presented. That is the theme here.

 

An antisocial snake comes slithering in to reveal the personality of Clay Allen Duke. Indeed, the entire time Duke is a double. There are two performers embodying him that shadow each other. It is a brave move that works for the show and the casting is perfect. One looks like an aged version of the other. It is uncanny. I think that the two Dukes together in their gesticulating, swaying, stomping, and decaying were compelling. They gave a feeling of knowing to the Duke’s humanness.

 

Gun violence examined from the lens of dance is unusual, but given the prevalence of such violence it is a worthy subject. This event is rather senseless. Some of what happens on stage is too, but this is art imitating life for what it is. This was a desperate man full of resentments. In the end he drank his own poison hoping it would kill his enemies. I would rather see dukes with swords, not guns, but this isn’t what society has given us. This performance gives us something better than any of that.

 

The Clay Duke is showing at On The Board’s theater this weekend from December 5th to 8th.

No Results Found

“No Results Found” This was the reply that Google gave me for a recent search.

 

How could this be?! Hasn’t everything been Google’d and written about by now? True, I wrapped my query in quotes, forcing the search engine to look for exact matches to the string. Maybe I forced too strong a constraint.

 

There’s something exhilarating about that answer. No Results Found. No Results Yet. Nobody Yet… I became temporarily obsessed and insane by the thought of it. Maybe unique turns of phrase are still possible, or maybe Google doesn’t know everything.

 

It drove me to write a quick poem, an homage to Walt Whitman.

Read it: When I Heard the Erudite Seattleite

Sunday Haiku

leaves fall through still air

gifting us the taste of truth

with Earth’s rotation

nature’s apprentice

paints ice crystals on each blade

of grass on long nights

unhindered comet

when time comes to be present

crows will know the sky

Haiku contributed from Nite Rote.

Essential Sounds: Nicholas Jaar

Nicholas Jaar is a young Chilean-American producer and musician. He fuses together minimalist electronic (often near a dreamy 100 BPM), groovy guitar riffs, sparse vocals, blues, synthesizers, and so much more. It is a very modern but classic sound. Influences for Jaar span from the Chilean electronic  artist Ricardo Villalobos all the way to Erik Satie and Mulatu Astatke. Jaar’s newest project is Darkside with multi-instrumentalist Dave Harrington. The track in the video above is Paper Trails which is the bridging middle point of the Darkside album Psychic that was just released. The Darkside sound is different, but understandable. What I really find essential in Jaar’s music are the slow break downs and build ups using jazz elements (like in Never Have I Ever) or the smart use of his vocals (like in Space Is Only Noise If You Can See).  Jaar makes music a journey, and indeed here is the two hour long Nicolas Jaar Essential Mix. It goes from odd auditory samples to lo-fi crumbling to symphonic arrangements to…

Myth and Magic in the Artist’s Studio with José Luis Rodríguez Guerra

I recently visited the artist, painter, and sculptor José Luis Rodríguez Guerra in his studio to have a discussion and private viewing of his art. Our conversation went in many directions. Here is a crude selection of excerpts from our conversation and a glimpse at some of his art. I should say that the recorded words here and the simulacra of his paintings do not do justice to the depth of his expression.

ABF: What is your work about?

JLRG: Someone said my work accentuates myth, magic, and memory. But they were just a scholar. My work is an expression of the human condition.

ABF: What are you trying to do with your work?

JLRG: I try to make the world smaller.  I work where the chaotic pool of miracles happens and I deliver them. You have to fight norms.

Guerra’s studio is breathtaking. Most of his paintings are massive, life size. They do not have frames and jut out from the wall several inches or so such that each piece seems like a heavy stone tablet. The studio is darkly lit except for the pieces themselves which are lit immaculately; some of his work uses color changing lights to accentuate various layers of the art. A reoccurring technique in the pieces are little circular speckles in brown, red, or ochre. This color scheme is everywhere. Mythological items and symbols prevail: crows, snakes, eagles, deserts, sickles, or fire. My favorite piece by Guerra is his masterpiece Age of Signs (seen below, mixed media on prepared masonite 32″ x 48″). It is an image of a farm worker in a sparse field, but the workers tools are gone.  He is nude. The landscape is stark. An anvil cloud in the distance is illuminated in pink and red from the setting or rising sun. The man throws red in a panicked arc onto square lines drawn in the field.

Age of by Jose Luis Rodriguez Guerra

The artist Jose Guerra

ABF: What is creating art like?
JLRG: It is a life… a sacrifice. Maybe I can’t paint anymore. My body, my mind, the pieces I have completed now represent me. But I’m not hungry anymore.When you are as serious as I you have to be a magician. Or a shaman. Because what your doing has an effect. We are not blind. I have been painting for a lot of years. I’m 60.
ABF: What are you painting or expressing?
JLRG: I paint the human condition. The politics, I know what is going on. War, problems. It is about oil. Energy. The Middle East. The bomb in Iran. Syria. In general it has been happening for the last 20 years. I’m just grasping in this area. Al Queda cutting heads. It all deals with what’s going on. War and immigration is also a part of it. I have something to say. About the human condition.
ABF: What is your story?
JLRG: [Guerra was born in Coahuila, Mexico]. I really started with abstract expressionism at Boise State University. I got tired of it though. I wanted more. Frustration destroys artists, academia doesn’t deliver artists. I moved to Mexico city in 1978. My influences were Carravagio, Velasquez, Diego Rivera, Goya, these were movements of classical works in its best. These artists stand out to me.
ABF: Your art is of warriors or shamans in some intense landscape that looks like a dream. Are you painting your dreams or myths you see.
JLRG: But I’m not a myth maker. I’m an observer. We paint what is in the moment. I’m a victim as much as anyone. The difference is I can observe it.

Jose Luis Rodriguez Guerra

Jose Luis Rodriguez Guerra

Study of Shell Woman by Jose Luis Rodriguez Guerra

Study of farm worker #5 by Jose Luis Rodriguez GuerraI was delighted how he said he was an observer. Guerra is an artist who captures the sadness of the human condition, yet he also gives us poetic cures for healing. We all feel what is in the moment, but Guerra offers the unique talent of uncommon observation to us, “the difference is I can observe it.”  You can find out more about Guerra’s art and contact him at his website here. Guerra’s art studio and gallery is generally open to the public on the 1st Thursday of each month for Seattle art walk from 7:00-11:00PM located at 80 South Washington St. Suite 204 Seattle, WA 98104. Please do not use any of the images from this post without attribution to myself for the pictures and attribution to Guerra for the artwork; be sensitive to the unique nature and provenance of these works.

Sunday Haiku

how does it rain here

asked the whale to the human

who held their last breath

 

some people I know

have slipped on leaves this winter

cold wet dirty leaves

 

earth ran out of clouds

foreign correspondents are reporting

a smiling moon

 
Haiku contributed from Nite Rote.